Daily Archives: October 25, 2020

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 October 2020

Conversations (ABC) I’ve just finished reading William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy and so I listened to Richard Fidler interviewing him on Conversations in a program called ‘William Dalrymple on the ruthless rise of the British East India Company‘. This conversation was more topical than the book itself, which is largely based on history, drawing parallels with current day corporations and the East India Company.

Heather Cox Richardson Although I’m running behind on HCR’s History chats, I’m right up to date with her History and Politics chats because so much is happening in America at the moment. This week she missed her History and Politics chat on the Tuesday, so she moved it to the Thursday instead. So on Thursday 16 October she gave a review of the American constitution and the respective roles of the Congress, Executive and Supreme Court. She comes right out and says that if Trump wins, that will be the end of Democracy in the United States. She predicts a period of violence in the wake of the election result no matter what happens. I just can’t believe that America has ended up here.

In her History chat of 17 September she picks up with George W. Bush’s presidency after the contested ballot of 2000. Now that the USSR had splintered there was no Manichean ‘baddies’ any more, so in effect that had to create them. She picks up on the comment of ‘a senior advisor to Bush’ to Ron Suskind “We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” She goes on to talk about 9/11, Iraq, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, Hurricane Katrina, the Global Financial Crisis etc. etc. In 2008 McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, thus further embedding Movement Conservatism into the Republican Party. When Barak Obama was elected, he was everything that Movement Conservatives hated, and it is here that you can see the planting of the tropes that Trump is pushing now: ‘voter fraud’, ‘socialism’ ‘UnAmericanism’.

The History Listen (ABC) Spies, Lies and Hairdryers is the story of Kay Marshall, who became an ASIO double agent during the Cold War, who became involved in the Skripov Affair (which I’d never heard of). She seemed so ordinary, and yet there she was hanging around Taronga Park zoo, with a copy of the Age in her hand, waiting to meet with a Soviet spy.

MOOCing around during lockdown

We’ve been locked down here in Melbourne for fifteen weeks, which in anyone’s language is a bloody long time. Not one for jigsaw puzzles, and already a regular bread baker, I turned instead to a few online courses, mostly through FutureLearn. I must confess that I’m pretty slack. I rarely engage in the discussions, and I never do the assessments.

Since the lockdown, I have completed Radical Spirituality: The Early History of the Quakers, which is no longer running. It was run jointly by Lancaster University & Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and it is a historical examination of the birth of Quakerism in the 1650s in England, the role of George Fox and Margaret Fell, and the rather peripatetic nature of Quakerism in its early days.

I also did a course called The Scottish Highland Clans: Origins, Decline and Transformation but to be honest, I can’t remember whether than was this year or last year…a COVID shutdown does that, I guess. It ran from the University of Glasgow over a period of three weeks. You can join it at any time.

And just now, I have finished Empire, run through the University of Exeter. It was a six week course, and the University of Exeter also runs the Imperial and Global Forum online, so there is an ongoing presence of the historians involved in the course. The course concentrates on the British Empire in particular, and as a citizen of a ‘colonized’ country, it was interesting to see empire from the other end. The course has run several times, and at the end of the first iteration that created ‘summing up’ videos to review the comments left by students. Although the comments between one course and another are probably much the same, you did feel a bit recycled. Having read a couple of books about British imperialism in India recently, I really enjoyed the discussion of Mary Curzon’s Peacock Dress.

Next stop is a course on Slavery in the British Caribbean, which I have read about as part of my thesis. It will be interesting to look at it in a more structured way. So, ever onwards……